A new study suggests that family time helps kids cope with cyberbullying, as children who connect with ther parents at dinner or in the car may be protected from harmful problems with mental health and substance abuse.
When families have regular family dinners, or regular time together in the car or other settings, kids have the opportunity to talk and parents can observe. Kids know that they have adults they can rely on, and parents have the opportunity to notice if something is not right.
“In a way, cyberbullying is more insidious because it’s so hard to detect,” said lead author Frank J. Elgar of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal.
“It’s hard for teachers and parents to pick up on,” Elgar told Reuters Health by phone.
He and his team used voluntary, anonymous survey data from more than 18,000 teens at 49 schools in Wisconsin.
About one in five students said they’d been bullied on the Internet or by text messaging at least once over the past year.
“The good news is that most of the kids in this sample from Wisconsin had not been cyberbullied,” Elgar said.
Cyberbullying was more common for girls than for boys, for kids who’d been victims of face-to-face bullying, and for those who themselves had bullied other kids in person. Cyberbullying tended to increase as students got older.
Youngsters who’d been cyberbullied were more likely to also report mental health problems like anxiety, self-harm, thoughts of suicide, fighting, vandalism and substance use problems, according to results in JAMA Pediatrics September 1.
Almost 20 percent of the kids reported an episode of depression, while around five percent reported suicide attempts or misuse of over the counter or prescription drugs.